Q.E.D. is a Japanese detective manga created by Motohiro Katou, who produced 50 volumes between 1997 and 2014, originally serialized in Magazine GREAT, but chapters were later published in respectively Magazine E-no and Magazine Plus – an impressive run that moved over 3 million copies and spawned a live-action TV-series. And, as to be expected from a shōnen mystery, the protagonists are high-school students who, somehow, attract murderers like an overpowered super magnet.
Sou Touma is a 14-year-old genius, who's already an MIT graduate, but moved back to Japan to experience live as a normal high-school student. Only problem is that he has the social skills of a hermit and loves to hang out by himself on the roof of the school. This is, by the way, a staple of manga-and anime series that take place around a school. They always hang around on the school roof.
Luckily, Touma befriends a classmate, Kana Mizuhara, who knows her way around the social norm of polite society and loves sports, which makes her perfect to play the Archie Goodwin to his Nero Wolfe. It helps tremendously that Kana's father is a homicide detective who's smart enough to recognize Touma's talent as an amateur detective and allows him to meddle in his work.
Going by the two stories in the first volume, my impression is that Q.E.D. is a blend of Case Closed (type of cases) and Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning (characters).
The first of the two stories that make up the inaugural volume, titled "The Owl of Minerva," takes place at the central building of "the famous A-KS game company" where Kana is spending a rainy evening at the gaming center with a friend, Norika Arita – who's the daughter of the company's president. On their way out, they witness an altercation between two gamers. One of them is Touma, who not only utterly demolished his opponent, but honestly told him his movements were predictable and that he sucked. So Kana intervened and took him out of the situation, which marked the first occasion that she really interacted with her famous, but reclusive, classmate.
Not long after this incident, Norika is whisked away to a locked-off, top floor level of the building and the place is suddenly swarming with police. Kane even sees her father, Inspector Mizuhara, enter the building. She overhears him saying that there's "a case on the 23rd floor" of the building.
So Kana grabs Touma by the collar and drags him to an employee-only elevator, protected with an electronic, three-digit code lock, which Touma cracks by using the good old pencil trick to make fingerprints appear on the type-pad – after which they spend some time peeking around corners and gathering information. What they learn is that the company president, Norika's father, was stabbed to death in his office and the CCTV footage shows that only six people were present on the 23rd floor at the time of the murder. And the police found a dying message.
|A young Wolfean at work|
A crumpled playing card, the King of Diamonds, was pried from the hand of President Arita and a second playing card, the Queen of Hearts, was found on his desk. What really surprised me is that this dying message was symbolic and, therefore, solvable even for readers who don't speak Japanese. As a rule, dying messages and coded messages in Japanese detective manga and anime series hinge on the Japanese language, which makes them practically unsolvable to Western readers. Everything one of these dying message or code cracking stories turns up in a series, like Detective Conan, I turn-off my brain and just enjoy the story and that's what I did here.
After all, even the translator appeared to be baffled by this particular dying clue, because one of the characters pointed out a potential connection between the crumpled playing card and a suspect with the name Juuzo, but this was never explained and this was followed by a footnote – explaining that translator also had no idea what the connection could have been. However, it was in the original Japanese text and therefore it was left in the translation. So it was interesting that the dying message turned out to have a practical explanation and therefore solvable.
A second aspect of this story I found interesting is that Touma and Kana couldn't simply walk around the crime-scene and ask everyone impertinent questions. Touma placed a wire on Kana, who pretended to be a young journalist, while he listened to her investigation from behind a computer in his book-lined room. A room that looked suspiciously to the room from another a detective manga that was seen in the first volume of that series.
Anyway, Kana eventually introduces Touma to her father and he's really impressed by the boy's deductive abilities. When Touma acts for his cooperation, he violently shakes the boy and yelled in his face, "tell me everything" and "what should I do." Why do I never meet homicide detectives like that?
The solution itself is not too bad for a introductory story. I caught on the murderer very early on in the story, because this person used a very old locked room technique to throw off suspicion within this closed circle of suspects. I was immediately suspicious of this person's actions and I turned out to be correct. So, on a whole, not a bad kickoff to this series.
In the second and last story of this volume, "The Silver Eye," Kana drags Touma to a doll exhibition to meet a friend of hers, Suzu-nee-chan, who's the daughter of a very famous doll maker, Katsumi Nanasawa – who's considered a cultural asset of the nation. During the exhibition, Touma confronts a fanatical doll collector, Kakuzo Akutso, who made an underhanded, but daring, attempt to steal one of the dolls on display. Nanasawa has resolutely refused to sell the odious collector any of her dolls and, ever since, he has attempted to get his hands on them without having to pay for them.
Nanasawa is an elderly, sick and wheelchair-bound woman and is pretty much at the end of her life. So she devised a plan to keep her beloved dolls out of Akutso's hands. She plans to donate her house and all the dolls in it to the government and turn it into a doll museum, but, shortly after she passes away, the family estate makes an unsettling discovery. A list of sponsors for the museum turns out to be shill companies that are owned by Akutso and this gives him an opening to obtain the entire collection if the museum ever goes bankrupt. However, death intervenes in this plan.
Akutso suffered from arrhythmia and had a pacemaker to make his heart beat at a regular pace, but this did not prevent his heart from stopping and his body was found in one of the doll rooms. One of Nanasawa's lifelike dolls was standing over the body. A smaller, but valuable, doll was missing from the room and the investigation is hampered by the statement of the three suspects/witnesses. They all give different statements about who find the body and what happened thereafter.
I guess most readers will probably catch on how Akutso died, especially after Kana checks up on a clue for Touma by climbing over the roof into the murder room, but the final twist was also pretty obvious. However, it makes for an, overall, nice and pleasant detective story with an interesting background.
My only real complaint is that the murder method was not used to create a fun little locked room mystery, like the one from Clyde B. Clason's The Man from Tibet (1938), but the story required the suspects to have immediate access to the room. So you can hardly hold that against the writer.
On a whole, Q.E.D. is an interesting detective series with fun characters and relatively good plots. Granted, the plots aren't as good, or strong, as those found in Case Closed or Detective Academy Q, but they show potential to grow and improve. After all, my favorite detective manga, Case Closed, started with some really weak stories and look how that turned out. So you can expect my return to Q.E.D. in the near future.